“The Productivity Commission has released its final report into New Zealand’s immigration settings, and their findings yet again totally undermine Kris Faafoi’s ‘immigration rebalance’ and show that there’s no justification for the Minister’s anti-immigration agenda,” says ACT’s Immigration spokesperson Dr James McDowall.

“Kiwis are suffering from a cost of living crisis and our border settings are a major contributor to this. Our productivity levels are tanking as building sites can’t get builders. Hospitals can’t get nurses. Farms can’t get milkers. There are shortages of essential workers that are creating a wage-price spiral.

“The Commission reaffirmed that the immigration system “lacks transparency”. I asked the Minister what he thought about that statement based on the Commission’s preliminary findings last year, and he simply said he would reply in “due course”. Well Minister, I’m sure migrants and employers across New Zealand would love to know your response now.

“A major driver of the Government’s ideology is that immigration pushes wages down and displaces New Zealand workers. ACT has disputed that, and the Commission agrees: “no systematic displacement of local labour occurred … [and] immigration has had small and mostly positive effects on the wages and employment of New Zealand-born workers”.

“The Commission also emphasised that tying migrants’ visas to employers is unnecessary and sets the stage for exploitation, which is the very thing the Government claims it is trying to reduce. ACT has repeatedly called on the Minister to simplify job mobility for migrant workers – it would be good for workers and employers.

“Unfortunately the Minister isn’t listening, and has committed to the exact opposite with the new Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme, which will make filling workforce shortages extremely difficult. In a written question last year, the Minister told me that such restrictions enable “Immigration New Zealand to test that no suitable New Zealanders are available to fill the job”. Clearly the Minister has no faith in market forces, and would rather see businesses across the country close their doors than hire migrants, with job losses for all and productivity tanking.

“The Commission is calling for a Government Policy Statement to be published to set out long-term goals and to minimise the ad hoc nature of immigration policy. ACT supports such an idea, but it’s highly unlikely to be taken up because the Government can’t commit to a plan to save itself.

“Immigration policy should be simple to navigate and welcoming so that the New Zealand economy can grow and more locals can be employed through job creation and investment. The Government has had more than two years of effectively zero immigration, yet the problems and backlogs persist.

“It was reported this week that there are so many people wanting to leave the country there aren't any seats on direct flights to the USA or to Australia until the end of July. Aspirational Kiwis don’t see a future here and the Brain Drain Budget only confirmed that. the Government needs to rethink it’s approach to immigration and make New Zealand a welcoming place for aspirational people again.”

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James McDowall